USD 410 achievements continue with new leader

Five students from Hillsboro High competed at the 2016 TSA National Competitive Events Confer­ence in Nashville, Tenn. Students Jacob Funk, Reece Berens, Nathan Sim­hiser, Jon Hinerman and Avery Unruh were accompanied by Creigh Bell, TSA adviser.
Five students from Hillsboro High competed at the 2016 TSA National Competitive Events Confer­ence in Nashville, Tenn. Students Jacob Funk, Reece Berens, Nathan Sim­hiser, Jon Hinerman and Avery Unruh were accompanied by Creigh Bell, TSA adviser.
When you consider the highlights and changes for Unified School District 410 in 2016, it starts at the top.

Max Heinrichs began his tenure as superintendent July 1 after his predecessor, Steve Noble become superintendent at USD 345-Seaman near Topeka.

A Hillsboro native who graduated from Hillsboro High School and came back to serve as a teacher, coach, activities director and principal, Heinrichs said his newest role is working out pretty well.

“I’m still learning, and probably always will be, but I feel good about how it’s going so far,” he said.

The USD 410 school board agreed: Heinrichs was offered a contract extention at the board’s first meeting in 2017.

Working as a team with principals and fellow administrators, Heinrichs said USD 410 had a lot of significant achievements to celebrate from the previous year.

Enrollment trend

One highlight for Heinrichs is the large class of kindergarteners this fall.

“The kindergarten class has 59 students—that’s bigger than we’ve ever been in a long time,” he said. “First grade has 35, which brings us back to an average number of 45. But if we come in higher than 45 on the next kindergarten class, we’re on that swing to increase our population.

“I see in maybe five to six years that we can be a solid (Class) 3A school at about 180 to 200 (high school) students,” he added, after living on the bubble between 3A and 2A the past few years. “We have between 140 to 160 students right now.”

The total population of the district’s schools is 560, he said, which in a net increase of around 30 students from the previous year.

On the youngest end of enrollment, Heinrichs noted a grant from Hills­boro Com­munity Founda­tion that made it possible to reduce tuition for pre-kindergarten education from $150 to $100 per month.

He said the decrease also applies to preschool children enrolled at Kids Connection, a local church operation.

“We look at them as if they’re all our students,” Heinrichs said.

Safer facilities

Another achievement in 2016 increased safety and security for students and staff with the implementation of a buzz-in system that requires visitors to wait at designated doors for permission to enter. The change also has changed entry procedures for school staff.

“Our goal was to secure the buildings and make them a safe place for our kids,” Heinrichs said. “By doing that, we took away some privileges that our teachers used to have, and we’re trying to go through those and write policy on that.”

Also related to safety, Heinrichs said the board has approved a plan to add more cameras inside the buildings in 2017 to monitor the hallways and isolated locations.

On another facility note, Heinrichs said the board intends to add an elevator in the original high school (east) building; an elevator is already available in the newer middle school building (west).

“We need to do that rather than just move classroom around to make it work,” he said. “It’s inconvenient for the teachers and it’s not fair to the students—they need to see every part of the building like everybody else. We’re going to work toward that.”

Academic achievements

Heinrichs said the district was affirmed in a variety of ways for its academic achievements during 2016.

Hillsboro Middle/High School was one of 11 schools in Kansas to be recognized with a Governor’s Achieve­ment Award, which honoring top-performing schools in the state.

To receive a Governor’s Award, schools had to receive building-level Assess­ment Performance Index scores in the top 80 percent in math and reading. Schools also had to be in the top 5 percent of elementary schools or high schools.

Heinrichs said Hillsboro students also performed above the state average in ACT scores. He added that the test is available to all students, not just college-bound students.

“It helps us to see where we’re at across the board,” he said.

Another highlight in 2016 was the decision, after years of discussion, to develop an individual plan of study (IPS) for each student, tailored to her or his interests.

“We’re looking at grades, but we’re also looking at what are you thinking about for the future, what are your college aspirations, what careers are you interested in?’” Heinrichs said.

“When we do that, we have good conversations with kids and parents. Those will only grow and get better. I believe our teaching staff has done a great job picking that up and working with students.”

IPS is in place now for grades eight through 12, with a goal to extend it to grade-school students in the future.


Among the other highlights at USD 410, Heinrichs mentioned:

• Growth in TEEN Vir­tual Academy among students 18 and younger, both full-time and part-time, and for the number of credits earned by adults.

• The purchase of a 53-passenger, coach-style activity bus that will cost around $63,000 once it is ready for use. Heinrichs said a new bus of similar size and options would have cost the district around $180,000.

• The purchase of Sky­ward Business Suite as the office computer program for USD 410. Heinrichs said he collaborated with the other four school districts in the county. In the end, all five districts purchased the same system, resulting in a total savings of $140,000 for Marion County taxpayers.

HM/HS highlights

Heinrichs noted achievements earned by Hillsboro High/Middle School students and faculty.

• Five high school students—Jacob Funk, Reece Berens, Nathan Simhiser, Jon Hinerman and Avery Unruh—competed at the TSA National Competitive Events Conference in Nash­ville, Tenn.

• Hillsboro’s Personal Finance Team comprised of Callie Linnens, Mark Reeh, Jonathan Hinerman and Thomas Larabee placed second in the state, and was the only team from a public school to be recognized at the top.

• 15 students qualified for the state forensics meet: Kalen Moss, Reece Berens, Taytum Miller, Lydia Klie­wer, SaRae Roberts, Jon Hinerman, Savannah Unruh, Chloe Pankratz, Madi Sheppard, Shelby Johnson, Dylan Wiens, Jenna Hinerman, Tucker Moss, Abby Driggers and Orin Blecha.

• Kyle Unruh won the first Marion County Youth Entrepreneur­ship Chal­lenge; she and Caleb Rempel went on to compete at the state level.

• MaryElena Heyen, a seventh-grader, won the marion County Spelling Bee.

• Eleven vocal students were chosen to sing in the KMEA South Central Dis­trict Honor Choir: Anna Glanzer, Madi Sheppard, Vance Klassen, Callie Arnold, Colin Settle, Brodie Rathbone, Eva Franz, Surinda Bell, Caleb Rempel, Breanna Dittert, Chloe Pankratz.

• Vance Klassen was awarded the SCKMEA scholarship.

• Several entries in the state band and vocal competition received the top rating.

• Travis King, Levi Men­doza and Franklin Jost qualified for the state wrestling tournament.

• Elias Werth, Carson Herbel, Elliot Ollenburger and Collin Settle qualified for state as a team.

• Marah Franz won the gold medal in Class 2A pole vault at the state track meet after winning Class 3A gold the previous year.

HES highlights

Highlights at Hillsboro Elementary School included:

• Autumn Hardey was hired as a full-time counselor at HES.

• Increasing the size of its school gardens and continuing to educate students about nutritious food and where food comes from.

• Starting a weekly Span­ish language class taught by Sandy Arnold to all K-5 students.

• Continued to expand the popularity of the Walk­ing School Bus program, with a number of high school groups joining the walkers occasionally.

Faculty highlights

• Dennis Boldt was named a “master teacher” for the Project Lead the Way program, and is now qualified to train other teachers who participate in the program.

• Vocal instructor Lynn Just was named the South-Central District KMEA’s Out­standing Secondary School Music Educator for 2016-17.

• Kaylene Mueller was named the Kansas Behring Teacher of the Year junior division winner for the National History Day program.

On the horizon

As Heinrichs looks to the year ahead, a familiar issue looms large: education funding from the state. He said early signals from the Kan­sas Legislature indicate additional cuts to schools may be required to balance the state budget.

“I don’t like to deal in negatives, but you have to be thinking about them,” he said. “(The reduction) could be anywhere from $120,000 to $350,000. When you think about that, every $50,000 is a teacher.”

That prospect raises a related concern for Hein­richs, who said several teachers in the district are nearing the age where they could consider retiring in a few years.

“When those people leave, how are you going to find good people to replace them?” he asked. “If you look at colleges, nobody’s going into education.”

Despite the challenges, Heinrichs said he is committed to continuing the district’s commitment to progress and success in 2017.

“We’ll get what (funding) we possibly can for our people,” he said. “If we have to move some money around, we’ll move it. We’ll set our priorities a little differently and we’ll figure it out.

“The goal is to do the best we can with what we’ve got.”